Exercise can be therapeutic for individuals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), according to a University of West Florida study. Research presented at the 58th Annual Meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine and 2nd World Congress on Exercise is Medicine evaluated the effect of exercise for the anxiety disorder that affects up to 15% of the general population, including approximately 50% of female rape victims.

“Preliminary research has revealed that aerobic exercise may be an effective treatment for PTSD,” said Erika Smith, lead author of the study. “Previous studies have not utilized a control group and have not compared aerobic exercise to an empirically validated treatment for PTSD.”

Smith and her colleagues studied 14 participants who were recruited naturalistically through a Certified Rape Crisis Center in Pensacola, Fla. All participants attended bi-weekly cognitive behavioral therapy sessions, and seven of the participants also attended a minimum of two group circuit training classes per week.

The therapy sessions consisted of cognitive behavior interventions (CBT) as outlined by Edna Foa, MD. Exercise sessions were 40 minutes, including full-body exercises, and the circuit consisted of 30 seconds per exercise. The research team recorded each participants’ PTSD symptoms before and after treatment using the PTSD Checklist – Specific Versions (PCL-S).

Participants from both groups experienced improvement; however, the research team observed a clinically significant improvement in PCL-S score (10+) for participants in the CBT plus exercise group.

[Source: American College of Sports Medicine]